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Aint this just the biggest joke you have ever seen? Bad part is, some have failed it... SHEEEEZ!
 
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imposes physical requirements for prison guard prospects

HUNTSVILLE - Texas corrections officials continuously struggling to keep the state's prisons staffed with enough guards are for the first time imposing some physical requirements on the people they hire for those tough-to-fill jobs.

A plan that took effect last month requires prospective corrections officers be able to do a minimum number of sit-ups and push-ups within a minute and run or walk a mile, members of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice were told.

"This is something DPS and local law enforcement departments conduct and it has a relativeness to the job," said Carol Johnston, human resources director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "Corrections officers stand, they walk, they have repetitious motion requirement, they climb up in the pickets, they have use of force.

"What we're assessing is upper body, abdominal and leg strength and those are all related to the job."

The physical tests are not rigid, although the goal is for 16 sit-ups in a minute, six push-ups and a 15-minute mile. If someone can do more sit-ups, for example, that can compensate in a points system for a weakness in push-ups or a slower mile jogging time.

In testing before the plan officially began Nov. 1, about 10 percent of the volunteers plucked from training classes failed, although officials said some who flunked hadn't come prepared or just didn't participate in all three categories.

Since then, the failure rate has been about 4 percent.

The state hired 6,040 corrections officers in the year that ended Sept. 1, boosting their number to 24,034. That left 2,324 jobs vacant, or 8.8 percent of the authorized work force. The vacancy rate has been fairly constant over the past three years, peaking most recently at 10 percent in September 2003 and dropping to 7.8 percent in April.

"Our staffing is improved by a thousand from three years ago," Johnston said. "Our overall staffing percentage versus vacancy rate is far improved. And as far as from an operational perspective, most of our facilities have a higher level of employees available now than they had. Many of our units are running without requiring much overtime."

Good employment news for Texas is not necessarily good news for filling corrections officer jobs, she said, pointing out that when the overall jobless state rate goes down, the prison system's goes up.

"We're competing against those jobs and salaries and benefits," she said.

A rookie officer with no experience starts out at $1,716 a month, with raises in the third and ninth months. Under current guidelines, top pay after about eight years is $2,589 monthly.

Johnston said she has recruiters on the road in the state every business day, touting the jobs that offer four-day work weeks, then four-day weekends.

"That is a huge carrot," she said. "Many of our employees enjoy that time off or some may have other employment or just other interests."

Johnston wouldn't address how much more difficult the situation would become if the prison system, near capacity with about 151,000 inmates, decided to put up new prisons.

"That's hypothetical because we're not planning to build any facilities," agency spokesman Mike Viesca said.